Who Pays When Rescue’s Required?

A Coast Guard diver jumps in to save a swimmer in trouble far off Barbers Point | USCG photo

News item: Lost hikers keep Oahu rescue crews busy.

Should we start charging people the cost of rescue when they undertake a risky recreational activity without adequate equipment or orientation or do something where authorities have posted risk warnings or something that carries great likelihood of injury or death?

I bring this up because of the frequent rescue of hikers or people doing atsea recreational activities. The rescues mostly involve helicopter evacuation and specialists who must take risky chances.

Should these rescues be freebies? Is free rescue one of our inalienable rights?

I raise this issue because of a recent visit to Talkeetna, Alaska, the jumping-off point for climbers aiming to summit the 20,230-foot mountain known as Mount McKinley, or Denali. It’s a not-terribly-difficult but very cold mountain. So the National Park Service (NPS) maintains a ranger station to brief climbers and assess the gear they are bringing and their tolerance for high altitude without oxygen (tanks are not permitted for environmental reasons).

But the NPS has no authority to prohibit anyone from climbing. So it maintains climbing-season stations at the base camp and at two places along the approach to the summit. Rangers do 30-day stints there.

If you get altitude sickness or get hurt they will get you down. No charge. If you die they will recover your body and have it shipped home – again, no charge. The bill goes to the taxpayers.

I was a longtime skydiver. But would I have been entitled to a free rescue if I had done some nutty calculations and landed myself at sea rather than at the drop zone?

I was a longtime scuba diver. But should I have been entitled to free treatment in a bends chamber if I carelessly overstayed my underwater time?

It would not be difficult to convene a volunteer citizen panel that could rule on unwarranted riskiness or adventure before giving thumbs up or down on a rescue fee. The cost of rescue would then become one of the considerations in undertaking risky recreational activities.

Doesn’t this make sense? Is there anything here that’s not good public policy?

One of the road activities our police seldom seem to enforce (and therefore it’s becoming more common) is two people riding on a moped.

It’s illegal.

Moreover, it’s very dangerous. Mopeds with two are very unstable and unbalanced.

You generally see tourists, a male and a female, the latter perilously hanging on and seated on the back-of-seat plate rated for only seven pounds.

Obviously some moped rental outfits are turning a blind eye to this.